As promised, let’s explore the various components of a query letter you’d send to an editor for an article you wish to write. By the way, these rules apply whether you are sending your letter snail mail or email. If you are emailing (and you need to double-check to make sure that’s OK with the editor), send your letter as an attachment so it can remain in a professional, letter format. Sometimes the editor may ask you to put all your information within the body of your email to protect them from potential viruses, but if he doesn’t, send it as an attachment.
1. Contact information. Just like any other letter, put the editor’s contact info in the top left corner. This goes without saying, but make sure all the components are spelled correctly, especially the editor’s name! And…take the time to actually get the editor’s name so you’re not addressing your query to “To Whom It May Concern.”
2. Clever lead. In a query, you’ll only have a few seconds to make a great impression. Get right to the heart of your article idea in the first couple of sentences. Take your idea and turn it into a creative hook that will force the editor to keep reading. I’ll be talking more specifically about how to write leads in a future installment of How to Write Article Query Letters.
3. Story idea. Now that you’ve got the editor captivated with your lead, continue to explain, as briefly as possible, what your article will be about.
4. Magazine compatibility. Next, tell why you believe your article is perfect for their magazine. How does it fit with their readership, the magazine’s style, and the magazine’s format? If you don’t know these answers yourself, you’ve got some research to do!
5. Slant. Explain how you’re going to present your material. The more common of a topic you have, the more creative you’ll need to be in using a unique angle to tell your story. Think in terms of point of view, lists, how-to format, or Q & A if it’s an interview. I’ll cover specific ideas for slants in a future post.
6. Why you? Finally…you get to talk about yourself. After you’ve presented your idea and angle, let the editor know why you…and only you…can write this article. What expertise qualifies you? What inside track information do you have on your subject? Why can you present the story in a way that no one else can?
7. Concluding arguments. This is your final chance to convince the editor that your article is exactly what he needs and you are the person to write it. Use a short, one-paragraph summary to restate your article idea, tell why it’s a must-have for the magazine, and why you’re qualified to write it. Give the editor no reason to say no!
Stop back next time for a look at what to definitely avoid in your query letter.